Older workers a vital part of apprentice training

ENSURING apprentices finish their time as multi-skilled rounded individuals is an important part of what makes this town tick.

Gladstone's major industrial sites take on apprentices to help mould them with not just the technical skills required but also the mentorship from experienced workers.

NRG Gladstone Power Station and Queensland Alumina Ltd are redeveloping their mentoring programs to get the most out of their experienced workers to train up the apprentices.

NRG training and development specialist Steve Ebenestelli said they looked at all aspects of the apprenticeships.

"If they need to be pulled into line for performance management that may happen, but a lot of the time it's patting them on the back and guiding them in the right direction," he said.

"When we start them they're young and not really world wise - you can see them grow and some take different paths and most of them turn out really well."

He said the expertise and knowledge of the older guys was essential.

"We've got blokes who have been here for 30 years in the one place, and passing on that knowledge is critical. You can't get that other than from experience," he said.

"Young people are 10-foot tall and bulletproof, but that's where our mentors focus on looking after the apprentices' health and safety."

As well as their health, Mr Ebenestelli said NRG prided itself on the range of work apprentices took part in.

"We rotate them every quarter around different work groups so they come out a well-rounded tradie at the end," he said.

"It's all about being multi-skilled - the more skills we can give them, the more employable they are out there.

"We employ way more apprentices than what we require as an organisation because no one leaves here. We have a low turnover so we employ them to support our local area in tradies."

QAL general manager Mike Dunstan announced their apprentices would soon begin a new mentoring program, where experienced tradespeople would be hand selected.

He said they would coach the apprentices not just on the skills of the trade, but also provide a person for them to lean on in times of need or to be a sounding board on both a work and personal basis.

Jackson Reading at work at the Gladstone Power Station.
Jackson Reading at work at the Gladstone Power Station. Brenda Strong

Work experience the key to getting coveted apprenticeship

WORK experience goes a long way in securing coveted apprenticeships, as two of Gladstone's apprentices have discovered.

NRG Gladstone Power Station apprentices Colby Bidmade and Jackson Reading believe spending their free time doing a wide variety of work experience throughout the town's industrial businesses helped them gain their apprenticeships.

Jackson, a third-year electrical apprentice, said he did a fair bit of work experience at Chanel College.

"I did blocks of work experience at the Ports Corp and Purcell's," he said.

Working at the power station, he enjoyed the challenge of looking after machines and working things out.

"If you need a bracket or a frame you make it yourself," he said. Second-year fitter apprentice Colby did work experience while he was at Tannum Sands State High School.

"They definitely look at what experience you've had," he said. "Every Wednesday through Year 11 I did work experience here (at the power station) so that gave me an insight of what I'd be doing.

"Sometimes we're drilling, fixing gear boxes, fitting pipework - it's a good variety of work."


  • Total: 34 in 2014
  • First years: 7 per year
  • Apprenticeship range:
  • Fitters
  • Boiler makers
  • Electricians
  • Instrumentation electricians

Topics:  apprenticeship industry nrg power station qal training

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